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What it feels like to face Josh Donaldson over and over and over

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Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

When a Reds game hits the late innings you're likely expecting the worst at this point. Last night was just another example of why. Cincinnati entered the 9th leading 7-5 only to have Cleveland tie the game on a two-run homer by Rajai Davis. Some of you probably remember the movie Ground Hog Day with Bill Murray (although some of you weren't even born when it came out, and now I need a few moments to contemplate my mortality). In the movie Murray's character goes to bed, wakes up, and discovers that he's living the same day over and over again.

As the Reds season ticks away game by game you can probably relate.

Maybe you've tried to downplay your level of frustration. Every team has the occasional speed bump during the season. Don't all bullpens struggle at some point? It's admirable that you want to be optimistic, but you need to realize something today. When you compare Reds pitching in the 7-9 innings of games this season with the rest of the league it reveals a disappointing reality.

You, Reds fan, in fact do know a special kind of suffering. In some ways Cincinnati's pitching late in games is such an outlier that it's a pain only you can really understand.

So far this season teams are hitting .290/.374/.545 against Cincinnati in the 7-9 innings. That's good enough for a .919 OPS and 157 OPS+. If your goal is to keep the lead late in games, then that line is not optimal. However, sometimes it's hard to look at numbers and really put them in context.

What if we could put a face to those numbers?

Last season only five hitters who qualified for the batting title hit those bench marks. The names listed below probably won't be a surprise.

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

OPS+

Bryce Harper

.330

.460

.649

1.109

195

Mike Trout

.299

.402

.590

.991

176

Josh Donaldson

.297

.371

.568

.939

155

Paul Goldschmidt

.321

.435

.570

1.005

170

Joey Votto

.314

.459

.541

1.000

174

For our purposes we'll zero in on Josh Donaldson. His slugging percentage was a bit higher, and that obviously contributes to his higher OPS. However, his OPS+ of 155 is right in line with the 157 OPS+ of players hitting against the Reds in the 7-9 innings.

It might not be a perfect comparison, but the numbers are pretty close. When teams come to the plate against Cincinnati late in games it's as if we're watching Josh Donaldson hit over and over and over and over. It's tough enough facing a guy like that once through an order. Trying to close out games when you're facing three innings of players hitting like that is just about impossible

As you continue to compare the Reds productivity in the 7-9 innings with the rest of baseball you make some other disappointing discoveries. Cincinnati has surrendered 91 runs in the 7-9 innings this season. There's not another team in baseball within twenty runs of that mark. The next highest total is the Texas Rangers who have given up 69.

For a little more perspective on that number, the Chicago Cubs have allowed 110 runs this entire season. Again, the Reds have allowed 91 runs in the 7-9 innings. That could be part of the reason Cincinnati stands fourteen games back of Chicago.

The Reds have allowed a league leading 26 home runs in the 7-9 innings this year. The next highest total is Texas with 23. Actually, Texas shows up frequently in the bottom of these statistics. Maybe we could start a joint support group?

Cincinnati is not last in walks issued in the 7-9 innings. That distinction belongs to San Diego who has walked 54 hitters. However, the Reds are next to last with 53, but...moral victory?

Looking back at the "Josh Donaldson" line from above. The .290 batting average is second worst in baseball. Minnesota is allowing a .307 average in the last third of games. The .374 OBP and .545 SLG are worst in the league. Minnesota comes in just behind the Reds in both of those categories. If you see someone watching the end of a baseball game this season and drinking alone, it's likely they root for the Reds, Rangers, or Twins.

.919 OPS. Worst in the league. 231 total bases allowed. Worst in the league. 157 OPS+. Worst in the league.

Strikeouts? 22nd best with 96. Not bad at all.

At this point no one is expecting a miraculous turn around to this season. I don't even like taking time to wallow in these stats, but it does help make an important point. You should hold your head high Reds fan. You have witnessed some unspeakable things. When a normal team is up by 2 or 3 runs heading into the 9th their fans become preoccupied with other things. They begin to put their snacks away. They tuck their kids into bed. Before turning the lights off they check the score on their phone to ensure that their favorite team closed it out.

Not you. You know that a game truly isn't over until it's over. And usually by the time it is over...the result isn't good.

It would be easy to get mad or frustrated, but maybe this fact will help you properly adjust your expectations. When the Reds have a lead in the 9th it's not like they're simply facing Lonnie Chisenhall or Rajai Davis.

No this year...they're all Josh Donaldson.